Silva-Sonnen: The Showboat and the Shock Jock
Inside the octagon, there is no superior pound-for-pound star than Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva, who will defend his UFC title for the seventh time at UFC 117 in Oakland, California on August the 7th. Yet this fight is not the story of Silva’s record-setting 11-fight win streak in the UFC, nor about his rise in the pound-for-pound rankings due to the recent losses of BJ Penn and Fedor Emelianenko. In fact, most news reports concerning the headlining bout all focus on the loud-mouthed challenger—Oregon’s Chael Sonnen.
“The reason all the questions keep coming to me is because I give a coherent and clear answer that somebody wants to hear,” explained Sonnen of his appeal to the media on the UFC 117 conference call.
The truth about why there has been a viral-like spread of Sonnen’s quotes disseminating throughout every medium available is rather simple: As much as the fans want to see a dominant knockout artist like Anderson Silva, they place an even higher premium on watching Anderson get humiliated for his antics against Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia.
Silva earned the nod in all three of those wins—and in fact, he’s undefeated in the UFC since his debut in 2006—but his counterpunching mentality and avoidance of taking the fight to the ground like there are bloodthirsty sharks there has created a backlash from fans that Sonnen is now the benefactor of. No one can defeat Silva in the ring, but Sonnen’s verbal beatings are a welcome substitute.
“Fans, they’re the greatest thing ever,” says Silva, “but fans sometimes don’t understand what is happening in the ring at times. I don’t really blame them for reacting in some of the ways that they react.”
Sonnen reeks of opportunism, fully aware that he can stick the proverbial knife in and twist it without worrying about any supporters coming to Silva’s aid. His insults give everyone someone to point and laugh at; meanwhile, fans of Anderson Silva are salivating at the prospect of the bull being completely enraged to massacre the taunting matador.
“You walk to that ring insecure,” says Sonnen, “You have no idea what’s going to happen. I can’t control him, I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
With ten losses on his record, Chael’s talk has succeeded in shifting the focus from his underdog status to the pre-fight talk show he’s been hosting and starring in inside his own mind. The pivotal question of whether he can repeatedly secure takedowns while avoiding being submitted or knocked out will determine whether he has any chance at all at winning.
Although Travis Lutter managed to score three takedowns on Silva during their match at UFC 67, the reality was that the champion had just had double knee surgery in the weeks prior to the bout, thus affecting his performance. Dan Henderson also managed to take Silva down during the first round of their 2008 meeting, but his victory was short-lived as he could secure no further takedowns in the second round; he was then hurt standing and submitted via rear naked choke on the ground.
With a sense of the foreboding darkness awaiting Sonnen, Anderson told Tatame.com “The last one who spoke too much didn’t like the outcome.”
Although Chael’s words may push the pay-per-view buy rates to a higher level, he’s not a wrestling heel who can accept a pretend-beating and simply show up for work unscathed the very next day. If he becomes another statistic on Anderson Silva’s win ledger, the fans will only be too happy to move on to the next challenger.
Deep down inside, beyond all his talk, Sonnen understands what he’s gotten himself into.
“He is going to hurt me really bad on August 7.”